x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Crisis brewing in Israeli-US relations over Iran nuclear deal

Israel launches diplomatic offensive against world powers engaged in negotiations with Tehran over 'dangerous' agreement.

JERUSALEM // Israel was pulling out all the stops on Sunday to avert what it considers a looming “bad and dangerous” deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

The diplomatic offensive was aimed at the world powers engaged in negotiations with Tehran.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he spoke to the US, Russian, French, German and British leaders, five of the six world powers negotiating with Iran, and “told them that according to the information reaching Israel, the looming agreement is bad and dangerous”.

According to Mr Netanyahu, the mooted deal would remove sanctions on Iran while still enabling it to enrich uranium and advance works on a plutonium reactor.

“I asked them what was the rush? I suggested they wait, and seriously consider things,” he said.

“I hope they reach a good agreement, and we will do all we can to convince world powers to avoid a bad deal.”

The economy minister Naftali Bennett said he would lobby Congress.

“Before the talks resume, we will lobby dozens of members of the US Congress to whom I will personally explain during a visit beginning on Tuesday that Israel’s security is in jeopardy,” he said.

Later on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu was to address the general assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America and, according to the Jerusalem Post, directly appeal to the American public on the news programme Face the Nation.

Meanwhile, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said the United States was “not blind, and I don’t think we’re stupid” in the talks.

The top US diplomat also insisted there is “zero gap” between the Obama administration and its commitment to Israel, with diplomatic relations between the two allies under strain over the talks.

Mr Kerry made his remarkson the Meet the Press programme after talks in Geneva failed to produce a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

“Some of the most serious and capable, expert people in our government, who have spent a lifetime dealing both with Iran as well as with nuclear weapon and nuclear armament and proliferation, are engaged in our negotiation,” Mr Kerry said.

* Agence France-Presse